I enjoy activities such as reading, scuba diving, working out and traveling but these aren’t hobbies and I’m not passionate about them. I have work that lights me up and things I enjoy doing. But passion isn’t something I’ve ever felt. I’m just not built that way and for a long time it felt shameful.
I spent years observing others display their passion with great curiosity. Were they faking it like me? Did they really care about their work? It just seemed meaningless to me. I was way more into my relationships with people but I knew I was supposed to be excited about the work itself; I just wasn’t.
For most my career, I found my fulfillment through the relationships I built with my coworkers and customers but I never lost hope to find that passion others seemed to have. To me a passionate person knew exactly who they were and what they wanted to do in life. A passionate person was charismatic and interesting. Other people were drawn to them like the pied piper. I envied the ease with which they seemed to lead their life.
I sought adrenaline filled moments with the intent of trying to unleash my passion. I figured it had to be in there somewhere. I travelled alone to Africa on a safari, sky dived on the spur of the moment, went scuba diving for 10 weeks with strangers, made impulsive moves across country, and almost joined the Peace Corps — it was all to find my passion.
When we buy into the idea that we must find a passion in order to be happy and fulfilled, it creates feelings of unworthiness and can lead to shame.
When I finally accepted I wasn’t built to be passionate a shift occurred and I realized that I was not built to be driven by passion. I was built to connect with others in a meaningful way. The goals were not important, rather it was the journey that counted.
The right question for me was not “What do I want to do?” but rather, “Who do I want to be?”
I’m fascinated by the journey and what I learn about myself and others along the way and for two decades I believed that was not enough. The truth is — MY truth is — I’ll always be searching for something and I probably will never know what that something is. That something will change from one moment to the next, one year to the next, but that’s not what matters. What matters is who I am being.
It’s very often uncomfortable to live life focused on the journey because there is a lot of pressure to have it all figured out. It’s part of the fabric of our society — just try not to ask the next person you meet “What do you do for work?” and see how hard it is not to. Try asking “Who are you being?” and be prepared for a quizzical look. That may never change and for that reason it can be a constant struggle to stand up for ourselves in an achievement and status driven society.
The first step to being true to yourself is acknowledging that you are built exactly as you should be. You can’t contribute what you’re meant to contribute unless you honor your essence. Shifting your perspective from finding your passion to finding your purpose will enable you to start the process — and sorry, but this process will never really end.
Purpose is simply the manifestation of your values — your character — and what’s most important to you in this moment. While passion is what you do, purpose is who you are being — no matter what you do.
You don’t have to get it exactly right in order for it to increase your fulfillment. And good thing too because your purpose today may change tomorrow — why agonize over getting it exactly right? You simply need to uncover some of your values — perhaps they are hard work, loyalty and justice — your purpose might be to stand up for others. You can start living that today no matter what job you have. To live your purpose you simply align your actions and decisions with that purpose within your current circumstances. From there you can continue to make changes, small and big, to continue to align your environment with your purpose.
Right now, my purpose is to be authentic, compassionate, accepting and of service — that’s what I need to be fulfilled. The impact is that it gives others a safe place to be who they truly are. I choose to express my purpose through coaching right now, but for those many years when I couldn’t figure out what to do I found ways to honor my purpose. I can find an example in every job I’ve held. Here’s one:
When I was in college I took a job as a credit card bill collector. Worst job ever, right? No. I was actually proud of the work I did there. I approached every person I called with compassion and tried to help them by finding a way for them to remove the significant stress that debt can cause. In the end, almost everyone I talked with thanked me and I found great fulfillment.
What is your purpose and how do you express it every day?